A study was presented at the 116th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology yesterday that shows the benefit of backlit tablet computers like the iPad help patients with vision loss due to eye diseases read at a comfortable level again.
The study looked at all backlit tablets, scoring the iPad highest in terms of helping readers with low vision due to conditions like macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy read at their previously higher and more comfortable reading level.
Users with moderate vision loss were shown to have increased their reading speed by an average of 15 words per minute using an iPad over time. Those with a higher degree of vision loss of 20/40 or worse in both eyes show the most improvement using iPad style tablets as compared to using print to read. iPad users were shown to improve their reading speed by a minimum of 42 words per minute over using print materials, when font size was equalized to an 18 point font.
The study used a non backlit Kindle, however, which may account for the higher score on iPad devices.
Many people with low vision rely on lighted magnifying glasses or large, cumbersome CCTV devices to both magnify and brighten text from print sources, like the newspaper or traditional books. Many of these adjust contrast and color, as well, to assist people with low vision with eye fatigue or readability. The iPad can do this natively, and there are also several apps available that do even more, like changing the color of the text and/or background.
One of the researchers, Dr. Daniel Roth, said that the findings support the idea that people with low vision could return to near-normal levels of pleasure reading with the use of an iPad or other tablet, which are much less expensive than the CCTV magnifying devices made specifically for people with eye diseases like macular degeneration.
This study will greatly support advocates for those people who have lost their ability to easily and comfortably read books and other such text materials, as they can now read on an iPad as opposed to purchasing a much higher cost device for print magnification, which can sometimes run into the thousands of dollars.
It’s just another example of how mobile technologies for people without disabilities are being used more and more for a growing population of individuals with disabilities, and we can only hope it continues.